Freedom of Expression (Communications and Digital Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:10 pm ar 27 Hydref 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Vaizey of Didcot Lord Vaizey of Didcot Ceidwadwyr 4:10, 27 Hydref 2022

I am only teasing about the endless reshuffle. My jokes do not always work in this place. I would love the Minister to say what the Government are doing to encourage technology companies to be more user-friendly. That may involve digital citizenship training for the Home Secretary, who I gather finds it difficult even to use email. Clearly, there are issues here for people of every level of experience.

At the heart of this debate is, of course, what we mean by “legal but harmful”. I completely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Fox. I was hoping to disagree with her, because she is very provocative, but she is right to a certain extent about moral panic. The rise of Trump was actually aided by CNN more than anybody else. We sometimes load too much on to the platforms in terms of what they do. Nevertheless, I strongly support internet regulation of some kind. We need to make platforms accountable. The best example is, when you have a Twitter pile-on and you have the most vile abuse—particularly as a politician—there is simply no way in which to get redress. There has to be a regulatory backstop for you to be able to do that. But let us be clear: this is not broadcast regulation and it is not going to take every tweet and adjudicate; it is systems regulation and it is long overdue.

The final point that I would make to the Minister—and I shall not make another joke about him moving—is that I would love to hear what more the Government are doing on age verification and identity. It is such an important issue, and we simply cannot seem to get to a clear answer. It is about dealing with the issue of adult content, which the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, raised—and it seems unbelievable that we still do not have proper age verification procedures in place for this kind of thing.

Finally, as a committed remainer, I celebrate, along with the noble Lord, Lord Allan, the fact that these terrible EU bureaucrats who can barely tie their own shoelaces have managed to pass much more quickly than us sensible regulations on internet and competition regulation, while we see the Online Safety Bill tortuously stuck in the other place.